Signs & Effects of Schizoaffective Disorder

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with schizoaffective disorder build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of schizoaffective disorder treatment.

Understanding Schizoaffective Disorder

Learn about schizoaffective disorder

Resembling symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder, schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness in which a person experiences hallucinations and delusions in addition to mood disturbances. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can impact a person’s life in a major way. Psychotic symptoms, which are known to be incapacitating, coupled with episodes of mania and depression, can hinder a person’s ability to do the most mundane of tasks that would otherwise be easy.

Due to the wide array of symptoms associated with the disorder, schizoaffective is often misdiagnosed. Because the prevalence of depression, mania, and psychosis meet other diagnostic criteria, mental health professionals may assess a person in the throes of a psychotic and then depressive episode and come to an inaccurate conclusion because they are not receiving the full mental health history from the individual. While research continues to be conducted on the disorder, what is known is that the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can have a crippling effect on a person’s ability to function normally.


Schizoaffective disorder statistics

While not as common as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder affects an estimated .03% of the population. Furthermore, research has shown that the disorder is more prevalent among women, as they make up two-thirds of those diagnosed. Sadly, because of the distress caused by the symptoms in addition to the mood disturbances, those who have schizoaffective disorder have a 5% risk of suicide in their lifetime, a percentage that is found to be higher among North Americans than it is in other places in the world.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizoaffective disorder

While the specific reason as to why a person develops schizoaffective disorder has yet to be pinpointed, research has shown that there are a number of contributing factors that, when combined, might explain how a person develops schizoaffective disorder. Consider the following:

Genetic: Similar to other mental illnesses, schizoaffective disorder is believed to have a genetic component. Individuals with an immediate family member who has a history of a psychotic disorder, severe mood disorder, or schizoaffective disorder itself, have an increased risk of developing the disorder over time.

Physical: Due to malformations in the brain, as discovered through neuroimaging studies, a person with schizoaffective disorder often has smaller brain volume than a person without the disorder. Moreover, research has shown that if there is damage to the part of the brain which controls development, a person has a greater likelihood of developing schizoaffective disorder.

Environmental: Exposure to viruses or other toxins while in utero are believed to render a person more susceptible to developing schizoaffective disorder. Furthermore, scientists believe that damage to the brain due to complications during birth can also lead to a future diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of a psychotic or mood disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Pre-existing mental health disorder
  • Impaired development
  • Prenatal exposure to viruses or toxins

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizoaffective disorder

Making an accurate diagnosis for schizoaffective disorder can be somewhat difficult if a mental health professional is not provided with all of the necessary historical information on the person presenting with symptoms. Because a number of symptoms for schizoaffective disorder resemble those of psychotic disorders and mood disorders, it is imperative to note the types and frequency of each symptom present. To know if a person is suffering from schizoaffective disorder, some or all of the following signs and symptoms may be exhibited and should be reported to a mental health professional.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Self-jury
  • Suicide attempts
  • Catatonia
  • Mutism
  • Difficulty in social situations
  • Problems with self-care
  • Impaired occupational or academic functioning
  • Disordered behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of hygiene
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Flat affect
  • Changes in eating habits

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Anosognosia (poor insight)
  • Paranoia
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to focus attention
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Difficulty remembering

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Decrease in motivation
  • Extremely high or low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Manic episodes
  • Depressive episodes
  • Anxiousness


Effects of schizoaffective disorder

Untreated schizoaffective disorder can cause a great deal of impairment in a person’s life.Additionally, receiving a misdiagnosis or improper treatment could cause a number of adverse effects. Some of these effects might include:  

  • Substance abuse
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Financial problems
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Development of other mental health disorders
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizoaffective disorder and co-occurring disorders

There are a number of other disorders that could also be diagnosed in addition to schizoaffective disorder. These disorders can include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders

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